March 30, 2020
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Mr. Bernard Fishbein, Chair
Ontario Labour Relations Board
505 University Avenue, 2nd Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2P1
Dear Mr. Fishbein:
Re: Contini Letter Dated March 25 (Certification Applications During COVID-19 Crisis)
I write to you on behalf of the members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Ontario and across Canada. We join the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress in strong opposition to the view expressed by the above-noted letter.
We feel it is imperative to express our concerns during this unprecedented unemployment crisis. In particular, we feel it necessary to write today in response to Mr. Contini’s letter of March 25, 2020 in which he effectively asks the Ontario Labour Relations Board to administratively strip the fundamental statutory and Charter rights of every working person in Ontario.
We recognize and support the efforts made by the Ontario Labour Relations Board in its March 23, 2020 Notice to the Labour relations community. We recognize that the Board is working hard to balance the need to both protect public safety and at the same time safeguard Constitutional freedoms.
In order to protect the health and safety of Board staff, applicants and respondents, the Board has cancelled in-person hearings until May 4th. In the interim, it will accept applications and other submissions electronically, and will schedule mediation, case management hearings, and other submissions by teleconference or email. The Board will continue to accept electronic membership evidence in support of certification applications.
Workers continuing to work during this time are often in an extreme and acute position of physical, social and economic vulnerability. To deny working people the right to organize in these circumstances would only further disempower already vulnerable workers. It is now when the vulnerable among us require a voice. Many frontline workers from various sectors and industries are being mandated to work in extreme conditions that quite frankly are unsafe and unhealthy.
We believe the call to suspend accepting and processing certification applications and administering votes is unwarranted and unconstitutional, and the arguments for suspending them unsubstantiated. This would be a dangerous and unnecessary step. We urge the Board not to be persuaded by unfounded reactions and unsupported demands of those seeking to suspend Constitutional freedoms.
We recognize that there are some legitimate challenges to participation in the Board’s ordinary certification processes during these extraordinary times, and we maintain that the Board has dutifully taken appropriate measures to adapt and safeguard the integrity of its processes.
It is most important to remember during the current health crisis that workers must continue to have the right to organize and gain access to collective bargaining as is guaranteed by the Charter. We strongly urge the Board to reject Mr. Contini’s request and to do its duty in this time of crisis by ensuring access to certification and all other functions of this leading tribunal in Ontario.
Stan Pickthall, GVP
Patty Coates, President – Ontario Federation of Labour
Hassan Yussuff, President – Canadian Labour Congress
Heather Kelley, Board Member – Ontario Federation of Labour